The city of Bath is renowned for its healing spas and history and attracts around 4 million visitors each year. City officials have approved plans as part of a £6 million transport scheme to build a new park and ride facility at Bathampton Meadows, which they argue will help stem the congestion and traffic problems Bath currently experiences.
Campaign group ‘Save Bathampton Meadows’, who began a petition in October 2008 to promote their cause and help get names on paper to show the council that the park and ride is not wanted. The site is thousands of years old, greenbelt and bordering the River Avon and sits in a valley, which campaigners say will make the development an eyesore and a blot on the landscape; unable to be missed from the viewing points all around the area. Save Bathampton Meadows’ spokeswoman Alison Millar said,
“This park and ride would spoil the meadows and be visible not only to hundreds of homes nearby but to people walking in the hills around it.”
In addition, the site is next to a nature reserve, and there has been concern expressed by Natural England, as well as local residents, that the development will have a negative environmental impact for wildlife and ecosystems in the vicinity. The nature reserve attracts migrant birds such as little and ringed plovers, dunlin and different species of sandpipers, as well as a number of other birds that are attracted the the reserve’s oxbow lake.
A matter of particular frustration for residents is that the council has admitted that the introduction of another park and ride scheme will not necessarily reduce the amount of traffic and congestion heading through Bath every day. This is due to the main routes through the city being at saturation point already, so many people choose less convenient routes, such as bypassing Bath itself, to avoid the traffic. Any traffic removed from the roads by using the park and ride scheme would therefore be replaced with traffic that would previously have travelled an alternative route.
It is also believed that a number of people who would have previously used bus and train services to travel to Bath may well choose to use the park and ride service too, therefore not providing any reduction in Bath’s carbon emissions, as people are merely shifting from public transport to semi-public transport. If anything, this aspect would be adding to Bath’s emissions. Add to this that the development is on a green belt site, approved by the council due to ‘special circumstances’ and the campaigners have quite a point in opposing the new service. The proposal now rests with Hazel Blears, who must approve the proposal before further developments can begin.